Family Roundtable (from February 4)

by Daniel Murphy on February 12, 2006

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Family Roundtable Notes
February 4, 2006

Saturdays over the evening meal are our family’s occasion to reflect on a possible “call within a call” to be and become a family—to discover the inner truth (what John Paul II called “subjectivity”) of our family . . . its culture, its vocation, its mission.

Our decision to explore this inner truth builds on a strong family culture that includes shared faith and common interests in the arts (especially theater, film, literature) and individual involvement in various art forms.

On Saturday, February 4, 2006, we reviewed our notes from our previous roundtable discussion (on January 31, 2006), discussed #5 from John Paul II’s 1981 “On the Role and Mission of the Christian Family in the Modern World,” and reviewed a sketch of our reflections to date entitled “Serving Life through Love and Beauty” (below).

The following is a brief summary of our dialogue on February 4.

1. The basic and generic inner truth of the family as a vocation to love and life is a “given” for us; we are exploring another dimension: a possible call within a call with a common mission to serve love and life through beauty. This is different from a family enterprise, such as a business, although it includes practical aspects. It comes from and is animated by God (if it’s authentic) through our sacramental communion.

2. It often happens in society and in the Church that new things seem strange and even unhealthy. Some people have observed our inner family dynamic and considered it too enclosed. From the “inside,” we discover our communion and mission as rich, fruitful, and a source of joy. So, we should understand but not surrender our inner truth to judgments from the “outside,” unless there’s merit in criticism that could lead to reflection and possibily correction.

3. As Cardinal Ratzinger pointed out in “God and the World,” the passage on community and individuality, there are as many ways to God as there are people. The characteristic of our explorations suggests something corollary: there are as many common ways to God as there are families. Intentionality in becoming more who we are through prayer, reflection, and dialogue may mark a new development of Christian doctrine regarding the Christian family (cf. Newman).

4. Our discovery of a call within a call should not cause us to depart from attention to the ordinary, daily aspects of family life. Instead, it might bestow a certain nobility on everyday life (cf. Balthasar, Glory of the Lord, vol. 1).

5. John Paul II describes evangelical discernment in terms that seem to echo Balthasar’s notion of truth as “symphony”—a harmonious interplay of various discrete things . . . gifts and charisms in the Church. John Paul II goes on to point out a necessary “part” that the laity play in this symphony of discernment: “interpreting the history of the world in the light of Christ.” An implication of this understanding is that the Christian family, as a community of Christ’s faithful, would have the capacity to interpret their own inner truth and its relationship to society and the Church.

6. The sketch (below) outlines briefly the emerging “shape” of a possible common mission in the life of society and the Church—as both communion and works that serve life through love and beauty.

7. Discovering and cultivating this mission (being sent) as a family should adhere to the traits that Father, now Bishop, Gustavo articulated regarding the incipient life-form called “Men of the Beatitudes”: flexible and organic. A family vocation and mission should not be monastic. Instead, it would follow its own rhythms of daily life and adjustments to the needs, interests, opportunities of all members of the family. However, while staying flexible and organic, this life-form could include specific agreements and practices such as common prayer, reflection, dialogue (what we’re doing now on Saturdays to explore this call within a call).

8. The role of the Church (per John Paul II in the same passage from “Familiaris Consortio”) is to “promote the sense of the faith in all the faithful, examine and authoritatively judge the genuineness of its expressions, and educate the faithful in an ever more mature evangelical discernment.”

9. For us on our journey, we are more like the Von Trapp Family Singers than anything formally organized in the Church. We discussed the need for caution in imposing anything artificial on the inherent sacramental vocation of the family.

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